Anderson .Paak Shows Funk Belongs Back in Hip-Hop

The musician’s new album combines old hip-hop sounds to pave a new wave in today’s mainstream rap.


“Oxnard” is the latest musical effort from acclaimed rapper Anderson .Paak. (via itunes)

Jun Sung, Contributing Writer

Anderson .Paak is a hip-hop and rhythm and blues artist who draws influence from mostly West-Coast styles and sounds. He was brought into the mainstream by Dr. Dre with his work on the renowned producer’s album “Compton.” With this boost, he released “Malibu” the following year, in which he showcased his ability to combine soulful R&B singing, smooth jazz and rap.

With his newest project, “Oxnard,” the artist takes this unique style and adds a funk element while layering his drums on top of a J Dilla-esque kick-snare foundation. With this backbone, .Paak creates tracks that range all the way from hard-hitting and upbeat (“Mansa Musa”) to intricate and delicate (“Saviers Road”). It is important to note the influence of Dr. Dre in the creation of the album as well. With one of the best producers in the genre pulling the strings, each track sounds refined and crafted to perfection.

Much of the album’s style is thanks to .Paak’s accompanying band. The Free Nationals bring the same vibrant musical color to “Oxnard” as they have for the artist in his past projects. Their steady backing instrumentals provide the basis for .Paak’s vision of funk, soul and R&B in a hip-hop context. Their musical support allows .Paak to shine as much as he does.

.Paak’s album starts out with “The Chase,” which features a fluttering flute instrumental along with various percussive elements that brighten the song. With the artist’s rapping and unique singing voice both exhibited in this song, it is the perfect opener that premieres of the album. A few songs later, “Saviers Road” is the most prominent example of how .Paak is heavily influenced by J Dilla’s work, with the signature dragging drums offering one of the most interesting instrumentations in the whole album. Soon after, the two songs “Mansa Musa” and “Brother’s Keeper” take elements of .Paak’s musical personality and push them into a more traditional rap setting — with the help of Cocoa Sarai and Pusha T.

One of the great strengths of “Oxnard” is the extensive features. The artists that contributed to the album were able to add another dimension to .Paak’s sound. An example of this is Snoop Dogg’s feature on “Anywhere.”  His carefree rapping paired with the bass-driven beat and simple drum pattern create a strong contrast in style that helps the track stand out. 

Each track on the album is an iteration of classic hip-hop elements. With this, the album’s influences from J Dilla drums, R&B and funk elevate the project past normal hip-hop. .Paak’s project is unlike anything he has created before, and is a mainstream trendsetter for how funk can play a new role in the the hip-hop genre as a whole.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Nov. 26 print edition. Email Jun Sung at [email protected]